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Gov. Perry: Texas Is Leading Nation in High School Reforms

Location: Washington, DC

Gov. Perry: Texas Is Leading Nation in High School Reforms

Tells NGA that Texas Is 1st to Establish College-Prep Curriculum as Standard

Gov. Rick Perry today told the National Governors Association (NGA) that Texas has pursued an aggressive course to ensure that more students graduate from high school prepared to attend college.

"We are one of the most aggressive states in the nation, and we are the first state in the nation to require a college-prep curriculum as the standard coursework," Perry said. "That has the potential to drastically improve the number of Texas students who graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college."

Perry cited a study - commissioned by the NGA - by Achieve, Inc., that established Texas as the first state to require all high schools to provide a college-prep curriculum as the basic course of study. Texas implemented the requirement effective with this year's ninth grade class.

Speaking at the National Education Summit on High Schools sponsored by NGA and Achieve, Inc., Perry also cited other efforts Texas has pursued to improve high school education and graduation rates, including:

* Partnering with the Gates Foundation and others on a high school initiative to create smaller learning environments for struggling students. In 2003 the state partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the Communities Foundation of Texas to provide $130 million to assist at-risk students. At the time it was announced, the initiative was the largest public-private effort of its kind.
* Becoming the first state to provide individualized study guides to juniors and seniors who fail the required state tests. The guides are tailored to each student's academic weaknesses and are designed to help them learn the material required to pass the test the next time they take it.
* Requiring individualized graduation plans for students deemed at-risk of failure.

Perry said the next step will be to expand the program of providing individualized study guides and graduation plans to freshmen and sophomores so that academic struggles that often lead to students dropping out can be addressed sooner.

"Education reform in Texas is not merely something that occurred in the past," Perry said. "It is the focus of our future. I want to pass the most sweeping incentive program in the nation to reward excellent teachers and focus students on high achievement. We know incentives work in raising student performance."

Perry cited growth in the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses. AP courses are college-level courses, and students who score high enough on AP end-of-course exams can earn college credit.

"An Advanced Placement Initiative started several years ago rewards schools with up to $100 for each student who scores a 3 or higher (out of a possible score of 5) on AP tests," Perry said. "Since this initiative began, overall student participation has doubled, and it has nearly tripled among African-American and Hispanic students."

Perry said his goal is continue to pursue excellence in education and cited other incentive-based proposals he has presented to the Texas Legislature, including "the most sweeping teacher performance pay package in the country."

Perry's teacher-pay incentive will provide salary stipends of up to $7,500 to attract the best and brightest teachers to the toughest learning environments.

"We are going to focus our attention on schools that serve large numbers of economically disadvantaged students, and it starts by putting the best teachers in those classrooms," he said.

Perry also has proposed providing financial rewards tied to the number of students who graduate under the most rigorous course of study and to schools that offer optional end-of-course exams in core subjects like algebra, biology, English and history.

Perry said Texas' education philosophy is based on the concept that higher standards raise expectations and performance, a philosophy that has led to accomplishments "nothing short of amazing" over the past decade.

Since 1994 to 2002, Perry said, student passing rates on the state's assessment exams have increased from 53 percent to 85 percent. Texas students consistently rank in the top 10 nationally in reading, writing and math. And a record number of Texas students - more than 1 million - are attending institutions of higher learning.

"The momentum for education reform must not slow or stall," Perry said. "As much as we talk about how much money we put in education, we must also talk about how much education we get for our money."
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